Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Unless you're living a boring truth or reading some strange fiction. But even stranger than when truth is stranger than fiction is when truth is exactly as strange as fiction, right down to the unfeasible little details that would make you roll your eyes and change the channel.
#5. Man Gets Heart Transplanted from Suicide Victim, Commits Suicide ... Over the Same Woman
Thanks to horror movies, if we ever need a body part replaced and the only donor is a dead criminal, we'll learn to deal with life sans foot. Hey, it's better than kicking your loved ones to death while you're asleep. That's the alternative, because criminal body parts are always possessed in horror films. For instance, in John Carpenter's Body Bags, Mark Hamill is a baseball player who gets an eye transplant from a guy who used to kill women and have sex with their corpses. Naturally, he starts doing the exact same thing.
"Dude, I didn't possess your dick ..."
The Real Version:
Apparently, Sonny Graham never saw those movies. Graham was a 50-something South Carolina businessman who needed a heart transplant, and while he didn't get it from an executed serial killer, the donor did experience a tragic and unnatural demise. The heart came from Terry Cottle, a 33-year-old man who shot himself in the head after his wife dumped him because he wasn't making enough money. You've probably guessed by now: A decade later, Graham ended up doing the same thing, using the same method.
Over the same woman.
After recovering from the transplant in 1995, Graham wrote a thank-you letter to the donor's widow, Cheryl Cottle, unaware that she and Terry were suicidally estranged at the time. One thing led to another, and a few years later Sonny and Cheryl were married. The couple seemed blissfully happy ... until they didn't. In 2008, amid serious financial and romantic troubles, Graham stepped into his backyard shed, put a shotgun to his throat, and pulled the trigger. That is not the act of an uncommitted or uncertain man. That is the hardest you can possibly kill yourself. So either the movies had it right all this time and body parts are haunted by their previous owners, or else the divorce laws in South Carolina really, really suck.
#4. Prisoners Get the Chance to Reduce Their Sentence by Winning Fights
The "people forced to fight for their captors' amusement in order to earn their freedom" genre is a proud Hollywood tradition spanning from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Jennifer Lawrence. There's an even more specific subgenre that revolves around prison brawling, and it includes movies as varied as Undisputed, Undisputed II: Last Man Standing, and (of course) Undisputed III: Redemption (direct to DVD).
New Line Cinema
Only the second-most painful thing to happen to your genitals in prison.
The Real Version:
Felon, starring Val Kilmer, is a movie based on the infamous California State Prison in Corcoran, where the guards allegedly forced the inmates to fight for entertainment and placed bets on the victors. Last year, prison guards in Pennsylvania were busted for making inmates fight no-holds-barred battles for snacks; in Oklahoma, a detention center had fight clubs where guards took bets and arranged MMA confrontations.
Of course, these were all rogue actions taken by bored, underpaid corrections officers and not institutionalized prison brawl policies. That's the truly ridiculous part of the films: The prisoner fights were somehow official or mandatory, and that sort of dystopian madness just doesn't exist ... in America. Yet. For that we have to go to Thailand, home of the Prison Fight program.
Well, at least they're straightforward about it.
Straight forward, down, down forward + punch.
Thai inmates can get time off their prison sentence if they first train and then agree to combat a foreign fighter in special muay thai matches. One inmate doing 50 years on drug charges says he already shaved off 10 with his fists.
Again, this isn't the work of some maverick prison warden: It's a publicly endorsed program that aims to focus the inmates on perfecting their bodies into muay thai killing machines, because there's no way that turning every ex-con in the country into Jean-Claude Van Damme could ever go wrong.
#3. A Mild-Mannered High School Educator With Cancer Becomes a Meth Dealer
In Breaking Bad, the dad from Malcolm in the Middle takes the darkest career turn since Patty Hearst by playing a high school chemistry teacher named Walter White who finds out he has cancer and starts cooking meth. That's as far as we've watched the show (no spoilers!), but we're pretty sure that lovable, goofy old Walt will ultimately realize the error of his ways and adopt poor lost Jesse into his family, where they will both live happily ever after.
"We already have a breakfast son, Jesse, but you can be our dinner one."
The Real Version:
We've already covered the time a real-life tweaker named Walter White was arrested for selling meth. That's pretty weird, but it's just a name, and a fairly common one at that. It was almost bound to happen. It's the premise of Breaking Bad that's outlandish. Mild-mannered teacher turning to a double life of drug dealing because of a serious illness? That's the type of overwrought drama that happens only on TV.
Unless you're Stephen Doran.
Although he was battling cancer and undergoing treatment, everybody thought that the hardest problems Doran faced during his workday were algebraic in nature. That's until a kilo of meth from his side job as a drug dealer was accidentally sent to the same building where he helped shape the minds of our children.
Really, it was as much a Malcolm plot as it was a Breaking Bad one.
Where TV's Walter White would have saved himself at the last minute by poisoning a couple of kindergartners to distract everyone, Doran got caught, and the cops eventually found over $50,000 worth of meth hidden at his house. The school pointed out that he was not a teacher, like White, but a tutor. Clearly that distinction makes all the difference.